Uganda: Kawempe Hospital Registers Steep Rise in Maternal Deaths

26 October 2021

Kawempe National Referral Hospital has revealed that unwanted pregnancies triggered by the pandemic have increased its caseload of pregnancy-related complications.

Speaking to the media during a health camp celebrating Safe Motherhood Day at Kyengera Health Centre III yesterday, Dr Rachael Nanzira, who is the deputy clinical head of the hospital, said they receive 650 cases of mothers with complicated pregnancies per week.

Dr Nanzira also said nearly 65 percent (422) of the cases are referrals.

"Majority of mothers who die while giving birth are referred and we have realised that 57 percent die due to excessive haemorrhage," she said.

To address the cause of the problem, the hospital has started engaging the community.

"We have to follow up every mother who dies while giving birth to try and see the main cause because we do not want to repeat the same mistake. We want to focus on the mothers who are referred, where they are referred from and take back the information to the communities and lower health facilities," Dr Nanzira said.

In promoting safe delivery, the focus has been centred on emergency obstetric care, prevention of maternal deaths and delay by mothers to make a decision to go to the facility.

"Our challenge is that we receive these mothers when it's too late. We want the lower health facilities to become more functional," Dr Nanzira said.

Dr Emelda Namagembe, an obstetrician gynaecologist at Mulago hospital, who also doubles as a student researcher in maternal health under Thrive, said the main aim of this camp is to strengthen the component of maternal death surveillance and response.

"We want to learn from it and identify what kind of recommendations and actions need to be [considered] at various health levels in order to contribute to the reduction of mothers dying from complications related to pregnancy," she said.

The pandemic has also brought a different set of problems, with Dr Namagembe highlighting a blood shortage exacerbated by students who are the biggest blood donors "being away from school."

Dr Namagembe also urged expectant mothers to increase antenatal visits from four to eight.


Uganda demographic health survey 2016 indicates that 336 women die per 100,000 live births.

This translates to about 16 women dying from pregnancy-related complications each day.

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